Mountain Valley Growers USDA Certified Organic Herb, Perennnial and Vegetable Plants

 

 

 

 

SWEET MYRTLE (Myrtus communis compacta):Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree.”       Isaiah 55:13.

 

Myrtle is the symbol of divine generosity. According to one interpretation, when “Adam was expelled from Paradise he was allowed to take with him wheat, chief of foods; the date, chief of fruits; and the myrtle, chief of scented flowers.” The bark and roots are used to tan the finest Turkish and Russian leather to which they impart a delicate scent. This scent is used in perfumes, soaps and potpourris and can be enjoyed in your garden too.

Our Myrtle is the dwarf variety. It is useful in gardens that are zone 8 and up as a fragrant hedge or accent specimen. The plant prefers full sun and adequate moisture with good drainage.

We recently had the occasion to see firsthand just how important enough water is to this plant. Planted over 20 years ago with Rockroses and Rosemary, this particular lone Dwarf Myrtle struggled for years on the meager moisture we allowed the rest of the garden. 

Close up of Dwarf Myrtle leaves

When we redesigned the garden this year, removing the Rockroses and the Rosemary, the Myrtle started receiving moisture almost daily. And over about a three-month period, it grew at least a foot in diameter and more in height.  The fragrance also became more pronounced. It is now a very happy 5-foot by 4-foot shrub, covered in its fall purple berries. And, speaking of berries, be sure to pick a few to use for some culinary experimenting. The leaves, flowers and berries are edible but are very strong and should be used sparingly until you are familiar with how they flavor your food. Historically, Myrtle has been used mainly to flavor strong meats, like lamb. Often the leaves are used more like a Bay leaf, removed from the dish after seasoning, instead of becoming part of the dish. The fresh berries have an almost sweet quality that the astringent leaves do not possess.

 

As you can see on the left,  Dwarf Sweet Myrtle takes pruning well and is suitable for hedges. It also makes nice topiaries. In colder climates, it can be grown in containers and brought in for the winter. Just make sure not to overwater it when it is indoors.

Dwarf Sweet Myrtle is one of the six plants chosen to be in our
Biblical Herb Garden Six Pack.

And, also makes a great addition to our
Zone 8 Fragrant Herb Garden Six Pack.

 

  We have put many of our best gardening gadgets on sale for the holidays. Click on the picture above to learn more!  
   
SUPPLEMENTAL LIGHTING

You are driving down a country lane, the birds are singing, the flowers are popping out everywhere and it has never been greener in the hills. What month is it? Well, there is a good chance it is not December. If you consider when plants grow the fastest, you will always come back to spring. One of the very special things about spring is that the days are going from short to long.

Ok, now it is blustery out and you are busy putting away the patio furniture and raking endless amounts of leaves. The color in the landscape has gone from vibrant green to shades of brown and your garden is starting to look a little sad. It is fall, and the special thing about fall, from a lighting perspective, is that days are going from long to short -- really short.

Now is the time to consider supplemental lighting. If you are one of the millions of gardeners who bring plants in each year or whose growing situation dictates only indoor growing, then no doubt you struggle with light. Long, leggy stems that flop over and yellow drooping leaves are two big cries for light from your indoor plants.

The kind of supplemental lighting you need depends a lot on how much space you are trying to light and what your budget is. One of the easiest (and least expensive) lights to use is fluorescent. And, today's fluorescent lighting is a far cry from the shop lights our dads hung over the washer and dryer. Take our compact fluorescent bulb and hood pictured on the right. The bulb is really pretty special.  Its 125 watts provides the preferred full spectrum of daylight and can be used horizontally or vertically. It lasts for about 10,000 hours and is really small when compared to other long tube fluorescents. The shade and all measures only about 20 inches in length and is about 12 inches wide. Yet, it can spread its light over about 9 square feet.

Compact Flourescent Hood and Light

Another cool thing about fluorescent lighting is that it is cool. This can be important if you have small children or pets who might come in contact with hotter types of lights. Of course, it also means that as long as the lamp is not touching the plant, the plant is not in danger of being burned either. As a matter of fact, you want to place your fluorescent bulb close to your plant: 3 to 4 inches is ideal. And, since you need to leave it on about 14 hours a day, it is nice to know you won't be smelling any smoke from this system.

Want to know more about fluorescent lighting or other types of plant lighting? Be sure to visit our lighting page.

In Sardinia, the liqueur Mirto is a made from both the berries and the leaves of Myrtus communis.  A red Mirto is made from the berries alone and a white Mirto is made from the berries and the leaves. This wine is consumed after dinner to aid in digestion. This  ancient tradition goes back to about 50 A.D. when the ancient Greek physician, Pedanius Dioscorides, used a Myrtle wine for a myriad of ailments including bladder infections. With homemade infusions on the rise, you might even like to try your own hand at infusing myrtle berries into a base liquor like vodka. The tiny berries which are pure white on the inside and purple on the outside are reminiscent of tiny grapes.  Indeed, their skin color quickly takes over the inner white of the berry and will just as quickly color whatever it comes in contact with. When infused into a clear spirit, the berries impart a delightful deep purple color within a matter of hours. Add a teaspoon or two to your next Martini and make a jewel-colored Myrtini!

Tiny Myrtle Berry Cut in Half.

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